S. Aydin

Erfurt University (GERMANY)
In the school year 2014-2015, of the 8,420,111 pupils attending mainstream schools, 34% did not have German citizenship. Moreover this underestimates the total number of pupils with migration backgrounds because records differentiate only between pupils with and without German citizenship. In reality, 7 of every 10 students with migration backgrounds have German citizenship. It is even more noteworthy that every third child in Germany has a migration background, meaning that they use a language or languages other than German in their families. Thus, it can be argued that multilingualism in German schools has mainly emerged from migration and only to lesser extent from formal foreign language education.

The European Union pursues the goal that European citizens should learn at least two languages in addition to their mother tongue. Although this multilingualism policy is positioned at the heart of diversity discourse, actual language learning patterns in schools foster a hierarchy of languages rather than diversity. While the “elite languages” commonly taught in schools have been regarded as advantageous for pupils learning additional foreign languages, minority languages, especially Turkish and Arabic, have been considered impediments to language learning.

Unlike former deficit-oriented studies, the present research investigates high school pupils with Turkish-Arab migration backgrounds from grade 8 to 12, who had a very good mark (1 in the German school system) or good mark (2) in English in their final school report, to find out what factors they found particularly helpful in learning English. This study considers resource-oriented questions, e.g. how their experiences of first language acquisition and learning a second language (German) can help them to learn the primary foreign language in the curriculum (English). Their operating language learning strategies and preferences for school as well as individual learning strategies are also explored to serve as best-practice models.

In this presentation, a brief theoretical background will be followed by sections including the research methods, preliminary findings and discussion. The presentation explores the preliminary research results for four pupils who acquired Turkish and Arabic as heritage languages at home, German as a second language and English as a foreign language at school.